Facebook has begun testing an autoplay function for videos displayed in the social network’s official iOS and Android apps. The announcement of the new feature was made on the company’s official blog on September 12, 2013, and explains that videos will begin to play automatically as soon as they appear in view.
Video content is not new to the social network, and users have long been able to upload videos directly to the network, as well as embed video content from other sources such as YouTube. Historically, however, videos had to be clicked manually before they were played. The Verge reports this latest move is currently limited to videos uploaded directly to Facebook (and not embedded from a third-party source) and will see videos play automatically once the content appears in view on the users’ news feeds. Videos will initially play back in silence, with audio being activated if the video is clicked. This method ensures that video content will remain unobtrusive, yet clearly visible to the user.
The new autoplay feature is not yet available to brand pages, although video advertising on Facebook continues to be a hot topic, with speculative reports of an upcoming launch dating back to 2012. AdAge highlighted the possibility in December of that year, suggesting that video ads on Facebook could launch as early as the first half of 2013. However, as noted by The Verge, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has voiced his concerns about the upcoming service and has subsequently delayed the launch on a number of occasions. The primary worry appears to be that the content should be relevant to users and that simple reruns of national TV campaigns risk causing frustration as opposed to capturing interest. This signifies the importance for marketers to develop unique and engaging advertising content to captivate users rather than simply rehash existing material.
The potential for delivering engaging video advertising content to Facebook users should encourage marketers to explore the wealth of opportunities that the new autoplay function will surely provide. If original campaigns can be developed, the automatic delivery will ensure that users take notice. As a result, a significant response is much more likely than in situations in which videos must be activated manually. Automatic video playback is currently being tested on a small number of pages on the official iOS and Android apps and, according to the official blog post, will “continue to roll out over time.”
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